Africa sees 'extremely rapid evolution' of pandemic, UN says
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — More African countries closed their borders Thursday as the coronavirus’ local spread threatened to turn the continent of 1.3 billion people into an alarming new front for the pandemic.
“About 10 days ago we had about five countries” with the virus, WHO’s Africa chief Dr. Matshidiso Moeti told reporters. Now 35 of Africa’s 54 countries have cases, with the total close to 650. It’s an “extremely rapid evolution," she said. In fact, the first sub-Saharan Africa case was announced Feb. 28.
She said she did not believe that large numbers of infected people are going undetected in Africa. However, she did acknowledge a challenge in the shortage of testing kits. Forty-three countries have testing capability, up from two when the outbreak began. By Monday, countries will have 60,000 testing kits.
The WHO regional chief also expressed concern about travel restrictions and their impact on the ability to deliver needed resources. The WHO is considering humanitarian corridors, Moeti said.
But many African nations were taking their cue from China and other countries by sharply restricting travel.
On Thursday, Senegal closed its airspace. Angola and Cameroon shut air, land and sea borders. Rwanda blocked all commercial flights for a month. The island nation of Mauritius closed its border after announcing its first case.
Some people in other countries clamored for their governments to block flights, too.
“To stop this virus once and for all is to stop any flight that will land to (Nairobi’s international airport). Let them stop,” said Uhuru Evans, a bus driver in the capital of Kenya, East Africa’s economic hub.
He offered hand sanitizer to passengers as they boarded.
“Since it was announced that it has reached Kenya, I am refusing to...